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Drugstore lipsticks are appealing because they’re cheap, for one, and because they might turn out to be cheap and good. The stakes of making the wrong choice, luckily, are fairly low. Still, mediocre formulas bring more trouble than they’re worth—blotchy color, cracked lips, even post-lunch lip pigment smeared around the perimeters of your mouth, leaving behind a tell-tale halo. To help you sort the duds from the worthy products, we’ve rounded up the top drugstore lipsticks, from a buttery budget pick to a moisturizing matte lipstick—all for a bargain.
Best Overall: Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Mattes Lip Color
Mattes, liquid formulas in particular, are notorious for drying down to a scaly finish, but not this one. The creamy, velvety Maybelline lip color comes in a classic bullet shape, and smooths over lips without emphasizing lines or dryness. You’ll find that one coat is enough, thanks to a rich color payoff, with no streakiness to speak of.
It needs a few minutes to set to avoid transferring to teeth, but the wait time is worth it: Once the lipstick sets, it stays put. The shade selection features a few standouts: Siren in Scarlet, a bold universal red that wouldn’t be out of place at work or happy hour. One reviewer loved Nude Nuance, the perfect mauvy-nude for brown skin, for not washing out her complexion or pulling too gray. And if you’re still searching for a wine-red lip, Burgundy Blush dries down to a delicious cabernet red.
Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Butter Lipstick
Given how adorable the packaging is (like play makeup, but sturdier), we wouldn’t blame you for amassing a whole collection of Butter Lipsticks. Each candy-colored tube twists up into a creamy, richly pigmented lipstick bullet.
The resulting satin finish, which isn’t too shiny or too flat, is surprisingly versatile—the Butter Lipsticks layer well with lip gloss if you want more dimension, and also blot down to a lip stain without taking patches of color with it. There’s no colorbleed, feathering, or fading, and the color selection, which spans nudes all the way to a deep wine red, has something for everyone. Pickier users might notice formula isn’t truly opaque, but the intense pigmentation (and the price!) more than makes up for it.
Best for Dry Lips: Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor Moisturizing Lipstick
Winter wreaks havoc on lips, even with a thick armor of Aquaphor. Apply a lipstick on top that’s even remotely drying, and it’ll sponge up any moisture you have left. Reviewers were partial to the Revlon Ultra HD Matte lipstick for its thick, hydrating formula, with ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter to soothe parched lips. It’s overall an excellent formula for anyone who’s found matte lipsticks unwearable—the lip color’s gentle, non-sticky, and doesn’t feel tight, even after drying down.
The first coat applies easily with the doe-foot wand, which easily fixes up any smudging (no caking when reapplying, either). The Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor isn’t a true matte finish—there is a subtle shine once it dries—but can be blotted down to one. As you wear it, the lip color fades gracefully without leaving a ring around your mouth. It’s long-lasting enough to not feather or stray, but you won’t need to pry the pigment off at the end of the night either.
Best Longwear: Physicians Formula Healthy Lip Velvet Liquid Lipstick
Sometimes you have to curb your expectations with drugstore makeup. But, you can in fact have long-wearing lip color that doesn’t solder itself to your mouth. According to one Ulta reviewer, this gentle Physicians Formula lipstick held up after a potent double-header of two tacos and a generous helping of Chinese food. Once you apply with the doe-foot wand, the lipstick doesn’t transfer, nor does it settle in cracks or squeeze lips as it dries down.
The finish is either satin or a velvety matte, depending on how much you apply and whether you blot afterward. Moisturizing avocado oil and vitamins A and E make the liquid lipstick very comfortable to wear. The color range errs on the neutral side, the better to complement showier eye looks, but aren’t boring on their own either.
Best Matte: NYX Professional Matte Lipstick
There were a few matte lipsticks on this list, but this lip color by NYX is one of the easiest to wear. Liquid lipstick, admittedly, can be messy to work with, especially for beginners, so the simple bullet shape is a good alternative. Reviewers liked the NYX matte lipstick because it does the basics well without extra effort: The velvety formula feels good to apply, doesn’t emphasize lines, and doesn’t dry out lips. Your first coat won’t need a second, but you may need to reapply once during the day.
Luckily, the lipstick wears gracefully even when it’s time to touch up. One downside is the lipstick bullet doesn’t always reflect the true color (multiple reviewers recommended looking up swatches). Some of the best shades include Whipped Caviar, a warm terracotta, and Alabama, a deep burgundy that’s a fresh alternative to the classic red and perfect for cooler weather. Euro Trash, a beautiful warm mauve, is a close color match for Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk.
Best Liquid: Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink Lip Color
Anyone with a well-appointed lipstick collection (maybe neatly lined up in acrylic drawers?) won’t mind the adorable, color-blocked packaging, which either resembles matte piano keys or Pantone color chips. In any case, the liquid formula is just as elegant. An arrow-shaped applicator wand helps with accuracy, even helping reach those tricky lip corners. The Super Stay Matte Ink lipstick applies like a thick, moisturizing balm when you first spread it on, later drying to a comfortable, lightweight matte finish that doesn’t crack or flake. The matte color doesn’t transfer to your cup, teeth, or turtleneck either—a few reviewers even reported the lipstick staying on overnight. Some extra micellar water, however, easily washes the makeup away.
Best Lip Crayon: Revlon Balm Stain
The oversized crayon shape probably already told you, but this balm stain suits a low-maintenance approach to makeup. Lip stains are usually drying and blotchy, but the Revlon Balm Stain prevents this with a moisturizing mix of shea, mango, and coconut butters. The self-sharpening crayon (with a secure cap) means you can be as precise as you want to be.
You can also work up different finishes depending on how you apply. Smooth on one coat of the creamy balm for a sheer wash of color, like you’ve just eaten a popsicle, perhaps, or keep layering for bolder color. For a blotted lip, apply in the center of the lip and blend out. As the color fades, the balm leaves a pretty flush of color behind. One thing to watch out for: Some reviewers didn’t mind the light peppermint scent, while others were bothered by it.
Our writers spent 18 hours researching the most popular drugstore lipstick on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 23 different lipsticks overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers, read over 50 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 2 of the lipsticks themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.